How the Property Brothers got Brad Pitt, Viola Davis, and more for Celebrity IOU
Celebrities, they're just like us. They can't resist stepping to renovating rock stars Jonathan and Drew Scott and asking for help with home projects.
In fact, it was a conversation the Scott brothers had with Viola Davis five years ago that helped inspire their latest project for HGTV, Celebrity IOU, premiering April 13. Davis, along with other A-list talent like Brad Pitt, Melissa McCarthy, Jeremy Renner, and Michael Bublé, work with the Property Brothers on special renovation projects for special people in their lives.
The twin siblings spoke with EW about the new series and how involved the celebs really were.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys are everyone's dream-team renovating duo, so it's no surprise fans are dying to work with you. But do celebrities ask you for help too?
JONATHAN SCOTT: Yes, they do! Over the years we've received every kind of request, from athletes to singers to politicians — you name it. We know our audience loves celebrities, but often they don't relate to seeing them renovate their own homes. Drew and I get half a million messages a week each on social media about what hat they'd like to see us do. The initial idea for Celebrity IOU sparked from a fan comment that made us think, "What if we take these huge celebrities and found somebody in their life who was instrumental in making them a success and surprise them with a home makeover?"
Then, around five years ago, we were at the Emmys and Viola Davis came over to us to say hi, and we told her about our idea for the show. On the spot, she said she had someone in mind and that we could count her in. We had the same reaction from all the celebrities participating in the show, so here we are. These are celebrities with really big hearts, and you'll be able to see how much they care about these people and why they wanted to give back to them. It's really special.
Your celebrity participants are really big stars, like Brad Pitt in the premiere, who picked his longtime makeup artist, Jean Black, for the remodel. How involved were they?
J.S.: Oh yeah, there was no holding back. Every celebrity was right there helping do the work. In fact, Brad is obsessed with architecture and real estate, and he really understands design. He said from the very beginning he wants to be involved. Some of the ideas for the solutions in creating that space for Jean to work from home came from Brad, who was already very familiar with the space plan. Brad was the coolest, most down-to-earth guy, and was sweet to everybody. I've never seen this before but when he'd join us on site, he remembered everyone's name from the production crew, my construction crew, and he took the time to say hello to everyone every time he was there.
And Melissa McCarthy, she really had the time of her life! Her episode was shot just outside of Chicago while she was busy shooting a movie, and she kept flying in just to work with us, then she'd fly right back out. She was really dedicated to the project. Rebel Wilson was also flying in and out of Australia to be a part of this. It was exciting to see how involved they all were and that they didn't just phone this in.
Being that these are such big stars, couldn't they have done for their loved ones themselves?
J.S.: I think it can be overwhelming. For example, Michael Bublé has an incredible story. It was his grandfather who got him into music at a young age, who was a plumber in Vancouver. He used to barter his plumbing services with local clubs in exchange for his grandson to perform. That's how he got started in the music industry. It was his dying wish that Michael look after his longtime caretaker, and that's the project we worked on with him. Michael told us he could've just hired some contractors to take care of this, but it was so much to tackle and he didn't want to do it wrong. Working with us, we took that burden away.
Do you guys really get these projects done as fast as they show on TV, or is that Hollywood magic?
DREW SCOTT: Oh yeah, absolutely. We hire local crews wherever we're working, so we make sure we have quick access to all the sub-trades. Same with local designers and artists that can pull everything together. It's a Herculean effort to pull it off. With Brad's story, Jean thought he was pulling a prank on her. So we had to use spies to make sure she wasn't around.
We're used to working on a lot of projects at once, at this point. I know it may seem unbelievable to viewers that we can turn these projects around so fast, but we do. We've been doing this for so long and have a huge team. It's really exciting to finally be able to share these special projects with everyone, especially with everything that's going on in the world right now. I think HGTV is this safe haven where everybody can get a little something from these heartwarming stories. The premiere episode with Brad has so much heart behind it. Everybody's gonna cry, everybody's gonna have a good time, and I think this is exactly what we need.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.